Water hardness varies from location to location, depending on the water
source. Hardness refers to the concentration of minerals in the water,
and it can affect municipal water supplies and well water. Unfortunately,
when water is too hard or too soft, it can start to wreak havoc on your home.
Causes and Signs of Hard Water
Water that is too hard is typically caused by excessive mineral buildup.
Calcium and magnesium in the surrounding environment are two of the major
culprits behind hard water symptoms. The water is safe for human consumption
and for continued use for laundry, dishes, and more. However, just because
you can — may not mean you want to.
Minerals can create a white, chalky buildup on fixtures and dishes. Over
time, it will make appliances work harder and increase your energy bills.
You may notice that your laundry isn't as soft or vibrant as it could
be. Hard water can dry out skin and make your hair difficult to style
because the mineral buildup prevents soap from working properly with the
water. Soap is less effective with anything you wash in hard water. Clogs
due to buildup in lines could affect your water pressure. If you notice
any of these signs, it may be time to explore a water softener.
How Water Softener Works
Water softeners remove the mineral buildup in water, making it softer.
The softener is a mechanical ion exchanger that homeowners attach to the
water supply. A water softener collects the hard water and sends it into
a chamber where the sodium replaces the calcium and magnesium. The machine
typically uses sodium in the form of a concentrated brine to break down
the strong calcium and magnesium ionic charges.
The end result is water that has a small concentration of sodium, but no
calcium or magnesium. Sodium is much more desirable in water supplies
because it doesn't cause buildup in pipes or make cleansers less effective.
Homeowners won't notice sodium in the water, because the concentration
is very small. The solution is often preferable to other techniques, such
as descaling. Descaling removes mineral buildup, but doesn't do much
to reduce the mineral level in the water. Water softeners are affordable
and effective solutions recommended by many professional plumbers.
When is Water Considered "Hard"?
You can call and ask your water company about the most recent testing levels
or you can acquire a water testing kit from a water-conditioning company
or some hardware stores. Water hardness is measured in "grains per
gallon" (GPG) or mg/L and measures the calcium carbonate content.
If you notice a reading of 3.5-7 GPG or 60-120 mg/L, you have moderately
hard water, which may or may not cause hard water problems. Levels above
7 GPG or 120 mg/L are considered very hard and will likely cause problems
in the home.
Most of the time, you can tell if your water is too hard by paying attention
to the symptoms of hard water. A professional plumbing company can also
help you determine if your water is too hard and how to choose a water
softener for your home.
For more information on how to improve the water quality of your home,
contact The Eco Plumbers.